Making - and re-living - history
Having taken a leap in the dark by forming a coalition, will David Cameron now take another by embracing political reform - to the electoral system, to the Commons and the Lords - which he once opposed?
Was the prime minister inspired by the example of that great Tory reformer Benjamin Disraeli?
Some of those advising Nick Clegg how to prepare for coalition talks with David Cameron recalled words, which I confess I had forgotten, he used in an interview with me for my Radio 4 documentary about Benjamin Disraeli [scroll to bottom of page]. Mr Cameron praised his predecessor for his sheer audacity in outmanoeuvring Gladstone on the issue of political reform - first opposing, then embracing it and going much further than either he or his opponent had planned. The issue then was extending the franchise to people who did not yet have the vote.
Mr Cameron told me that it was "a hugely bold move - somebody said he took a leap in the dark, he looked round, and then took another one".
Rather like, you might think, agreeing to form a coalition and then to embrace reform of the voting system, the Commons and the Lords.
Tories worrying that their leader may be risking the unity of their party may not be comforted by his words about another Tory reforming prime minister, Sir Robert Peel. Peel repealed the Corn Laws and split his party down the middle.
Mr Cameron told me:
"It was a classic bit of Tory modernisation... It was a huge change to take on his own party, to take on the vested interest and make the right change for the country. The tragedy was that he split the party in the process, but he did the right thing."
It is not just Mr Cameron's words which are worth another listen. Intriguingly, Nick Clegg - in an interview for the programme on David Lloyd George [scroll to bottom of page] - told me that he regarded as a mistake the great Liberal's determination to continue in peacetime the coalition which took Britain through World War 1.
Lloyd George had ended up governing without a political base, depending on the Tories for his survival and, therefore, had no protection when things went wrong.
Who says history doesn't repeat itself?